Millsaps' Hot Bat Leads Falcons to Win in NCAA Tournament Opener

Photo - Sean Meyers
Photo - Sean Meyers

Jeremy Zalacca - Director of Athletic Communications

SAVANNAH, GA - For the second straight season, the Pfeiffer softball team (45-6) defeated a higher-seeded opponent in its NCAA Tournament opener as the Falcons outlasted No. 2 seed Carson-Newman (43-12) by a score of 7-4 in nine innings on Thursday afternoon. Kiana Millsaps had four runs batted in, including the game-winning hit in the ninth inning as Pfeiffer ended a 21-game head-to-head losing streak against the Eagles.

Millsaps crushed a 2-run home run in the top of the first and added a 2-RBI base hit with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth to cap off her second 4-RBI game of the season. Millsaps had one of three Pfeiffer home runs on the day as the Falcons advance in the winner's bracket to take on Young Harris tomorrow.

Playing like a team that was angry about being ranked No. 8 in the nation but only garnering the No. 7 seed in the Southeast Region, Pfeiffer jumped ahead early. Vada Blue Sherrill led off the game with an opposite field home run and Millsaps added a 2-run shot. After four batters came to the plate, Pfeiffer held a 3-0 lead over the SAC Pitcher of the Year, Lacie Rinus.

However, the SAC regular season and post-season champs would storm back. Using the long ball, the Eagles would answer with two homers in a 3-run bottom of the third to even the contest at three.

After three scoreless innings, Pfeiffer looked to rally in the top of the seventh. With two outs and no one on, freshman sensation Makenzie Pennell crushed the Falcons third home run of the day to push Pfeiffer ahead 4-3.

The Eagles tied it up in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a bases-loaded hit by pitch but freshman Caitlin Christian would retire the final two batters of the inning to send the game to extras.

Neither team plated a run in the eighth before Pfeiffer erupted in the ninth. After a leadoff ground out, three straight batters reached to load the bases for Millsaps. The sophomore crushed a single to left center field to score Sherrill and Stephanie Fortner and give Pfeiffer a 6-4 lead. Chandler Walker followed with an RBI groundout as Pfeiffer took a 3-run advantage.

Christian retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth and earned her 13th victory of the season. Christian went 6.2 innings and allowed three runs on the day, while reliever Sydney Poole allowed one run in 2.1 innings of work.

Millsaps went 3-for-4 on the day and was a triple shy of the cycle. Sherrill scored twice and added her 41st stolen base of the season and Pennell went 1-for-2 with three walks and three runs scored.

"It's all about our grit," commented sophomore shortstop Sherrill following the game. "We practice stressful situations so when we are in them, we can thrive."

"We're excited to be here," said head coach Monte Sherrill. "We were at this stage last year and got knocked off by a tough Armstrong St. team. We're looking forward to tomorrow, it's going to be a competitive game."

The Falcons will advance to take on the No. 6 seed Young Harris Mountain Lions on Friday morning at 11 a.m. Young Harris upset No. 3 seed Armstrong St. by a score of 2-1 in the tournament opener. The winner of Pfeiffer/Young Harris will advance to Saturday's regional final, while the loser will come back to play at 4 p.m.